Sunday, October 22, 2017

1st 5 Pages October Workshop - Hoover Rev 2

Name: Audrianna Hoover
Genre: YA Fantasy
Title: Princess of Darkness

Seventeen-year-old Arielle, Princess of Dagengrath, is cursed with dark magic she cannot control, in a land where magic rarely exists. A single touch can be deadly to the entire kingdom, but the amulet locked on her wrist keeps her powers at bay.

Taken prisoner by Dagengrath’s rival kingdom, Arielle’s powers are growing and the amulet will not be able to protect those around her much longer. When it fails, the secrets she has been hiding expose more than just her own lies, and  force her to take a place on the battlefield and choose: her family or the kingdom she has come to call home.

Chapter One

The door crashed into the wall behind it as it swung open, letting in precious air.

Arielle pulled her face away from the tiny window, where her cheek pressed against it with the hope of making her tiny room stop closing in. Even the distraction of watching the men training below hadn’t been helping today. She took a gloriously deep breath as space opened around her once more.

Creda limped in, clutching her walking stick. “The king wishes to see you,” she announced. Arielle only stared, still catching her breath. Her maid slammed the end of the stick onto the stone floor. “Now!”

Arielle jolted and hurried towards the door, vaulting over the cot that stretched out the width of the room. A flare of hope tightened her chest. Maybe today was the day she would be set free.

Creda whacked the walking stick across the back of her legs, Arielle’s gown protecting her from the sharp sting it should have elicited. Arielle flinched even so, remembering the strikes she occasionally received directly to her flesh.

“Hurry girl,” Creda grunted.

Arielle stuck her tongue out, careful to hide the action, as they descended the stone staircase into the hall below. No matter how cruel her maid was, Arielle was sure to never let the hateful crone see her displays of contempt. If she noticed, no doubt Creda would slip enough poison into her every meal to keep her bed ridden for the rest of her life; or kill her.

With each stride across the main floor of the castle towards the throne room, Arielle’s heart pounded. Her skirts whispered on the stone as she passed the closed library. She averted her eyes from the doors, the thought of the mural painted inside sending a shiver down her spine. A single servant slipped past her and Creda, staring at Arielle with wide eyes.

Where is everyone? she thought as they passed the Great Hall, which stood eerily quiet and empty.

She forgot about her curiosity as she crossed the threshold of the throne room alone, Creda halting in the gallery outside. Arielle slowed her pace until she stood at the foot of the throne and curtsied deeply. She straightened, feeling relief and excitement as the king regarded her with a calmness that was unlike him. A moment of silence passed over the room.

“You will be presented for selection of the sacrifice tonight.”

She stared up at him, unblinking. She could feel the despair pooling in her gut, even as the fear of what he had announced quaked through her. She wished for freedom and found death. Her eyes flicked to the king’s right, to her twin there beside him.

His hair was the color of spun gold, his eyes a solid crystal blue. His fair skin was tanned from his time outside, from training to be a warrior, which was where the lean, toned body came from. But discussing such a bleak subject, Aeron’s expression held nothing but emptiness – not the slightest bit of compassion.

He did not care that their father was going to march her before a crowd of their own people and sacrifice her, should she be chosen.

If Aeron and her father were mirror images in their looks, she was the inverse. Her jet-black hair and eyes proved it, but the difference of personalities between her and Aeron was the most apparent. While her brother obeyed their father without a moment’s hesitation regarding everything, Arielle suffered a terrible and strange compulsion to rebel against even the simplest commands.

“Why?” She drew herself up to full height, eyes connecting with her father’s. She clenched her fists, directing her anxiety the nails that bit into her palms. The iron bracelet around her wrist glinted in the light from the fire, the deep orange amulet inset into the metal gleaming. “You despise me so much, you would spill my blood?” she asked, her voice cracking.

A flash of childhood memories came to her like a quick strike of lightning. Standing in front of the altar at Haebor’s temple, hand clasped with Aeron’s. The blood of the chosen spilling onto the marble steps as they tried to keep from screaming…

King Jerald gave her an icy smile, the crinkling around his eyes evidence of the pleasure he felt at the fear she was sure he sensed. “You’ve been away too long. You’ve forgotten which rite this is, Arielle.”

Arielle’s eyes widened, her lips moving as she whispered to herself to count the days since she was last out – something she quit doing a long time ago. Only the castle knew of her imprisonment, the king not wanting the entirety of his kingdom to know of his daughter’s evil deed. Even then, those who knew could not say why she was locked away, nor why she sported the bracelet which kept her from hurting anyone.

The blood drained from her face. “The Spring Rite,” she choked out. “You’re going to give me to Haebor.”

“Of course not.” He drew his lips into a firm line. “I’m merely offering you for his assessment. If he were to choose you, it would be a way for you to redeem yourself.”

“I will not go,” Arielle said, but her tone was unconvincing. She tried again. “You cannot make me offer myself. It must be done freely.”

The king stood, menacing in his stance. The men who guarded her father stepped forward to each claim an arm. She kept her head high and proud as he approached, Aeron keeping at his heels.

King Jerald appraised her, his lip curling. “Arielle, you will go,” he said, stepping close enough to make her want to retreat. His expression softened. “I’m only trying to save you, to save your soul. Someone must right the path you’ve chosen. Please don’t throw away this chance to prove you’re not as you appear.”

Arielle felt apprehension wind tight in her gut as she took in the look – the one which almost seemed to say he cared for her and what might happen to her. If she could prove to him she wasn’t evil. If she could prove she hadn’t meant to defy him that day. The blood on her hands was an accident, the thoughtless mistake of the child who had been locked away four years ago.

“It is, of course, as you say. You must offer yourself freely.” He hardened again as he looked her over from head to toe, grimacing as if the stain on her sleeve from lunch was the stain on her soul he so abhorred. The king swept back to his throne of glittering gold and black diamonds and rich rubies, but Aeron remained in front of her. “But you must choose now,” he added, reclaiming his seat.

Arielle stared up at her twin, searching for any sort of sympathy or sibling bond. A single hand rested on his sword, his knuckles white with his grip, though his expression remained blank. She could swear she sensed the slightest bit of hesitation, but if it was truly there, her brother did not display anything to confirm it.

“Choose,” King Jerald demanded. He leaned forward in his seat, waiting for her answer.

Arielle felt herself breaking. Her desire for redemption was prevailing over her need to be released. But consenting to the selection for the sacrifice was not a light matter.

If she were chosen, she would be bred like an animal by Dagengrath’s only deity – Haebor.


  1. Hi Audrianna,

    Regarding your pitch, I like your story idea. I would definitely add the fact that there's a deity involved, because that's good stuff. You could also ramp up what's at stake for Areille. Maybe something besides her family, considering we know she doesn't exactly like them at the start--and that the feeling is mutual.

    I'm so glad you added back in the bit about Aeron gripping his sword, white-knuckled. It's some nice foreshadowing that maybe all is not what it seems with him.

    I was a bit bummed that you removed the line that said Arielle is as drawn to Haebor as he is to her, just because it was super creepy. But I suspect you'll get to that part, and I'm so glad I get to know it's an element of your story!

    Other than that, your pages have definitely tightened up. Nice work!

    Good luck with your manuscript.


  2. Hi Audrianna,

    This is a great setup to your world and the rules. It tells us a lot about the royal family, but I was left wondering what mistake she had made. So far, it sounds more like unintentional murder rather than magic. I also wanted to know why the king felt she was a worthy offering for this ritual if she's so tainted in his eyes. Is there something in her, other than that she's a princess, that would make her more likely of being chosen?

    You made some good reveals in these first pages: life vs death, king as her father, purpose of the ritual. Great job keeping these simple instead of pushing into too much explanation.


  3. Audrianna,

    I'm jealous of your ability to keep your pitch succinct! The only suggestion I would have is to introduce her family earlier on so that we understand better what it means for her to have to choose between it and her kingdom.

    With each revision, you've really nailed focusing more on the conflict and on putting us in touch with Arielle's emotions.

    If you revise again, you might give us more of a sense of how long she has been imprisoned. I do like the mention of the room closing in. Maybe that can be fleshed out more. We're pushed to get to the meat of the conflict right away with this exercise, and rightfully so, but I think there's a lot of tension to be found in Arielle feeling trapped in this prison, too. You've done a great job creating a premise in which your protagonist can only escape one bad situation by making a tough choice that will take her into another bad situation. That's the stuff of the best stories. In any future revisions, you might consider giving the reader a real taste of Arielle's current bad situation before we learn about Haebor.

    One last thing that just occurred to me. You've done a great job establishing Creda as Arielle's foil. How does the maid feel about Arielle's being set free? Is she annoyed? Relieved? Or does she even revel in hinting that Arielle's in for a tough choice? Some small moment like that would provide some foreshadowing that will keep us reading, and will also give even more life to this mean old character. : )

    Good luck with this project! I hope you're able to see it through!


  4. Hi Audrianna,

    You've made some really nice revisions here! I liked the opening--really got a sense of her claustrophobia and was intrigued about why she was imprisoned. I also really liked the line: She wished for freedom and found death. Oh--and I loved the memory of the blood sacrifice. That added a little creepy other-worldness to it for me.

    I also liked that there was a little more about the amulet--about the bracelet. After reading the pitch, that seems like a really important part of the story. It also seems as if Arielle has magical powers and she knows of them--she believes she's dangerous and she wears the bracelet to protect others. If so, wouldn't that affect how she feels and thinks? Would she want to be locked away to protect others? I would want that if I thought I could kill a kingdom with one touch. But there's also the conflicting parts of the story that make it seem as if Arielle's misdeed was an accident--one she wants to be forgiven for. To me, those are two very different things. I wonder if you can be more clear as you revise. Is Arielle dangerous? Does she think she is? If not, would she chafe against the bracelet that isn't needed?

    I love the ARC of the story you've set up and a choice between fighting for your new family and your old. If that's the case, my suggestion would be to give her a close relationship with at least one person in her family/kingdom. Right now, they're all cold and unforgiving. To me, that could dilute her dilemma in who to choose.

    Keep going on these revisions and best of luck. It's been wonderful to see how far you've brought the story! Great work!

  5. Hi Audrianna,

    A lot of good things in this revision! Brava again on a courageous rewrite. I like the tower sequence much better now, and you've definitely added a lot of fill out some things. The brief flashback to Haebor is great!

    That said, reading the pitch and the bits you've inserted about the bracelet, I feel we've all missed the mark a little bit. Several of us have mentioned the story question and genre several time, suggesting that we needed to get a clearer hint of where the story was going--whether it was going to be a love story with Haebor or he was going to prove to be the ultimate enemy. I see now that the reason he would have paid attention to her must have been the magic inside her. And having her banished to another kingdom for that magic and having to fight her family, that's an entirely different story that needs a slightly different beginning.

    Really, what it all comes down to is getting deeper into your character. Digging deeper into what your character sees and feels and thinks. If I put myself into your MC's shoes, and I have a power that can kill an entire kingdom at a single touch--presumably unconsciously when i'm upset, or you have a pretty unsympathetic heroine on your hands--I'm frankly petrified of myself, and petrified about what I can do. If someone has me locked up and suddenly releases me, I'm going to wonder why, and I'm going to wonder whether I'll be able to control myself. Whether the bracelet will be enough to help me control my powers. I'm going to touch that bracelet and think about it, and think about the reason I'm in the tower and consider what might have changed to make my father rethink my exile. Similarly, if I'm the maid who has to be responsible for this MC, am I not going to treat this girl with a healthy dose of caution? And if not, if the bracelet controls my powers so completely that the maid feels she can beat me with impunity, might I not wish for just one guilty second that the bracelet didn't work and that I might pay back the maid for beating me every time she sees me?

    You may, of course, have a completely different take on your character. But if you don't address these points in some way, you're not doing the character or the story full justice. And more importantly, you're leading the reader toward possible misinterpretation of where the story is going.

    If your character has powers that kill people, THAT is the story question.--one way or another. That's her wound. All of that needs to be in the first couple of paragraphs in some fashion. Don't hide it or give it to us in drabs. THat's the type of thing to tackle head on, let the reader take it on board, and then get on with the story. Psychologically, a reader will give you the biggest suspension of disbelief at the beginning of your story. Establish it with authority and they'll go along with your for the ride.. : )

    This sounds like a lot, but honestly, these are minor tweaks.

    Apart from that, watch how you handle your past tense. I noticed quite a few places where you needed to revert to past perfect for clarity. : )

    Best of luck with this. You've REALLY done a great job with these revisions, and I'm so impressed with the way that you've tackled this. It's the mark of a true writer and with your ability to take risks, accept feedback, and stay true to your vision, you've got the makings of a successful author. I'll be keeping my eyes on the shelves for your name!

    All best,


  6. Audrianna,
    I think you did a great job with this revision. I love the ambiguity of not knowing for sure Aeron’s allegiance. And while you may have run out of word space before you got there, I hope you haven’t eliminated her being drawn to Haebor. I liked that a lot.
    Minor thoughts:
    1. I really think we need to know what her power is up front. Not knowing what she did is intriguing but at the same time distracting. I don’t know whether to be afraid for her or afraid of her. ��
    2. I think Arielle would jerk her face from the window from the shock of the crashing door.
    3. I got confused about how long Arielle had been imprisoned. I would say how long earlier when she thinks, “Maybe today was the day she would be set free (after four long years).”
    4. In the paragraph that begins, “King Jerald appraised…” the king goes very quickly from a curled lip to his expression softening. If you want her to think he might be softening, I would leave out the curled lip. He could approach and make her want to retreat without it.
    5. We don’t know how old Arielle is. One way to fix this would be something like, “She was a woman of seventeen, not the thoughtless child who’d been locked away four years ago.”
    6. With that, while I love the specificity of the gesture, sticking out one’s tongue is not the mark of a mature person. Could there be another symbol of defiance (like the middle finger in the US, not that it’s mature either, but hopefully you get my point)?

    I do not consider myself to be a pitch expert, so take everything I say with a grain of salt.
    I find the lack of specificity in the pitch raises more questions than are answered.
    “A single touch can be deadly to the entire kingdom” Deadly how? We don’t know what her power is, so the fact that it’s growing doesn’t tell us much. Plus, having powers in fantasy is normal. What is unique about hers?
    “…the secrets she has been hiding expose more than just her own lies…” Give a hint here because otherwise it sounds like just another fantasy story with secrets.
    “…the kingdom she has come to call home.” She was taken prisoner. Does she have Stockholm Syndrome or has something happened to make her care about these people?

    All in all, I’m intrigued and wish you the best of luck with this story!


  7. Audrianna-

    You've made some really compelling revisions here, but I'm going to echo what Martina said in her comment.

    I was struck by the pitch because it didn't feel like it was the same story that I've been reading the opening to these past few weeks. If the story is really about her controlling her powers vs. destroying her kingdom, then *that* is where this needs to start. I don't really remember an amulet in the earlier drafts... Maybe it was there? If that's the case, those drafts didn't really emphasize it enough it enough for it to be a memorable detail. I noticed it here (in part because I'd read the pitch first), but I think--as Martina suggested--you could do even more to it.
    I've always thought of pitches or queries as the first 50-75 pages of the book--they give you a hook and a glimmer of what's about to happen. But I think it's really important that those first 50 pages match the pitch. Otherwise, when you start sending this out more widely to agents, you run the risk of an agent thinking, "Gee...this isn't what I was expecting the story to be about."

    But let's talk about your pitch a little...

    It's great because it's succinct and we know there's a big conflict in the works. Kudos on that. I'd encourage you, though, to push it a bit more. Right now, it feels a wee bit cliche--princess with singular powers that could destroy everyone. I think with a few words or phrases, you could do even more to show what makes *your* version of the magical princess trope special. How was she cursed? Who cursed her? What do you mean that magic "rarely" exists? That means it's a given or a possibility, but why isn't it more widespread? (i.e., is it outlawed, rare, died off?) Does the rival kingdom have magic or see it in the same way?

    Basically, I think you could totally take what you already have here and push it. You want the agent/editor who's reading it to think, "Oh! I haven't read anything like *that* before!" So what makes this story special? What makes Ariel's journey different and unique and amazing when you place her next to all those other princesses out there?? *THAT* is your hook, and that should be front and center in a pitch.

    Best of luck with the story, and feel free to reach out any time if there's ever anything I can do to help with your publication journey! <3

  8. Hi Audrianna,

    "A single touch can be deadly to the entire kingdom?" Nice line! Really interesting pitch you have here! I think there's room to add a few more details though. For example, we're introduced to the brother right off the bat, so I was surprised that he wasn't mentioned in the query. Granted, I don't know how big of a role he'll have later on, but it seems odd that there's not mention of him at all here, especially since he is her twin brother.

    For the pages, I like the little details you added with Arielle and Creda. And I like the added info about Arielle's walk to the throne room, it gives us a better sense of scenery. I do agree that you should mention her age somewhere early on. In generallI think I'm having a hard time understanding the passage of time. I rememeber and earlier version of the story mentioning how long she was locked away, so that should be brought back into this version in some way. Also "The blood of the chosen spilling onto the marble steps as they tried to keep from screaming…" Does this mean she's 13 in the flashback? Because I would assume childhood would be a much younger age. So the times and ages need to be clarified a bit. Everyone else covered the other things I had. But overall I've really enjoyed reading your work!

    Good luck!

  9. I just wanted to say thank you to everyone and their helpful advice!

    Kaitlyn - I will keep all of that in mind as I revise again! Thank you! And thank you for your time spent helping us. It's so nice to be able to get an inside look into an agent's mind!

    Martina and Lisa - Thank you SO much for this advice. I tend to get stuck on making the pages hook (to the best of my ability) and I forget that I need to start my story too! You have no idea how much both of your comments made me perk up and listen. I will definitely be using them when I revise again.

    Amy D. - More good points! I'm writing all of these down so I can come back to them throughout my writing - not just on this book either. Thank you!

    Sam, Lynn, Latrice and Amy - Thank you to all of you for advice and tips I got. They helped tremendously! This was my first foray into the online writing community and it was such a great experience. I had such a great time reading your works and working with you throughout!